For the first and possibly last time ever, the Mitsubishi Delica was a front page story in a national newspaper, with The Globe and Mail reporting on the “backlash” resulting from these “quirky” cars.
The Globe, which is widely regarded as Canada’s paper of record, chose to put the venerable van on page A1, ahead of stories about Syria, ISIS, Boko Haram, Libya and the lack of new manual station wagons.
According to the paper, the Mitsubishi Delica is raising ire, to the point where
“…various provinces and organizations across the country mobilizing to prevent even more of the vehicles from washing up on Canada’s shores…Concerned by the rising number of right-wheel-drive imports, ICBC analyzed crashes involving vehicles like the Delica. In 2009, the agency published its alarming findings: Right-wheel drive vehicles were 40 per cent more likely to be in a crash, and 56 per cent more likely to cause one, than left-wheel-drive vehicles. The driver’s position is believed to make everyday manoeuvres – such as pulling away from a curb or making a left-hand turn – much more dangerous.”
Granted, there are legitimate safety concerns regarding right-hand drive vehicles. For one, the positioning of the headlights must be modified. If they aren’t, then they tend to be angled right into oncoming traffic, which presents an obvious safety hazard.
But there’s also the unspoken fact that many right-hand drive vehicles are performance models like the Nissan Skyline GT-R and Toyota Celica GT-Four. They tend to be purchased by young, testosterone-addled males who are likely to drive them at dangerous speeds on public roads. This is likely to contribute to the alarming crash rates, and a reason why Quebec and Prince Edward Island moved to ban right-hand drive cars earlier in the decade.
There is also pressure from dealer groups and other parties who stand to lose out economically. Although BC’s government-regulated insurer has asked for changes in the rules, they don’t appear to be coming any time soon
Mark Francis, an ICBC manager of provincial vehicle registration who is on a national working group on the issue, says they asked Transport Canada to increase the number of years before a vehicle can be imported from 15 to 25. That number – which would be in line with the United States – would effectively kill the importation of modern Delicas by making it no longer economic for Japanese exporters to warehouse them.
“We’re taking their junk, as we view it,” Mr. Francis says. He adds, however, that the lack of any high-profile crashes involving these vehicles means there’s little incentive to act. “We’re not expecting them to do anything in the near future.”
Surely, the government has a whole host of priorities that are far higher than restricting what a niche group of enthusiasts can import into the country, right?